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January 23rd, 2014:

Burnabynow: Incinerator creates toxic mess for region

from Hildegard Bechler of New Westminster, published on Burnabynow:

An incinerator fouls not only our airshed, with thousands of unknown toxins and a ton of greenhouse gases for every ton burned.  It fouls our rivers, lakes, and groundwater.  Toxic ash landfills foul the soil (25 per cent of our waste – by weight, 10 per cent by volume – remains as toxic ash).  Incineration fouls our health.  Only the unknowable toxic synergies are “unpredictable”; the other impacts are a sure thing.

The Fraser Valley Regional District is only one of many local governments opposing the incinerator: one-third of Metro Vancouver directors voted against it.  Native Nations, community organizations and hundreds of individuals in both regions opposed it.

An incinerator would burn our kids’ resources, waste their fossil fuels, for 50 years.  Long before 2070, the Earth’s 10 billion people will be desperate for resources. Products that are difficult to recycle will be a folly of the past.  Like the costly destruction systems Metro Vancouver is now building, which will be shut down – wasted.  Will our grandchildren have to mine landfills, fish the Pacific gyre?

Metro’s own waste plan (financial implications, page 32) points out that diverting resources from the waste stream has economic benefits.

“There is considerable economic activity that takes place in the process of recycling the collected materials into new goods as an alternative to virgin feed stocks.  Although difficult to estimate, the economy associated with the remanufacturing of recycled materials into new products exceeds the costs for collection, transportation and processing.  Net expenditures associated with disposal more closely reflect the entire disposal economy since there is little economic activity that occurs following disposal.”

So why choose incineration?  Metro Vancouver’s plan states that we can’t recycle more than 80 per cent unless distant markets remain stable; that they are looking for contingencies.  Asian markets fail when the price of oil gets too high, as happened in 2008 when we had to pay to burn or bury our recycled materials.

What contingency could there be besides local remanufacture?  According to Metro Vancouver’s director of policy and planning for waste management in 2011, “The contingency is waste-to-energy”.  (Global incinerator corporations have deep pockets, plenty lobbyists.) This raises the question: what happens to the 80 per cent we’ll be recycling when markets fail?

It pays Asian corporations to buy, ship and remanufacture our recovered resources and ship new products back.  These are cheaper not only because of low wages and poor to no environmental protection.  These industries avoid the cost of extracting and refining virgin resources.

Instead of wasting billions of our tax dollars on massive systems for burning, on garbage transport and ash landfills, we need to use public money to develop diversion and remanufacturing capacity today: to build industries, business, jobs: local economic renewal, for public and private profit.

Metro Vancouver taxpayers can own a paper recycling plant and other remanufacturing industries, the way we own the incinerator.  We can partner with private industry and municipalities as we do with the Cache Creek landfill.  We can work with private recycling industries and publicly owned facilities too, to meet everyone’s needs for resources, as we already do with the various waste management companies.

Each municipality can build a bottle washing plant; facilities to convert textiles to rags and paper, construction waste to lumber, firewood and wood chips, demolition waste to product recovery and building deconstruction.  Reuse and repair community centres for appliances, furniture, bikes, can include a free store to make items available to people who can’t afford even thrift stores, taking the social justice dimension of waste into account.

Diversion options are virtually unlimited.  Most such developments are profitable industries and businesses.  Some cost the region (as does incineration) but are profitable in the long run because they conserve resources and share our wealth-ethical imperatives.    All are better outcomes for our taxes than toxic ash and destruction of our life support ecosystems.

This necessary reconfiguration of our industrial consumer society is happening all over the world.  It can happen here.   We can profit today by protecting our children’s future.

9 Jan 2014

FOTE: Dirty Truths – Incineration and Climate Change

Tackling climate change is the major environmental challenge of our times. Friends of the Earth believes that all government policies should be examined for their climate change impacts, from transport policy to waste policy.

At the same time, other environmental challenges must not be ignored – climate change may be the most immediate environmental crisis, but we should not ignore the possibility of others following on from it. For example, in the case of waste policy, it is vital that we also focus on maximising resource efficiency and on minimising pollution.

Waste policy has important climate change impacts, from, at one end, the emission savings by waste prevention or from recycling, to at the other end, the problem of methane emissions from landfill.

Waste prevention is the most beneficial option from a climate point of view, followed by reuse and recycling; landfill and incineration are worse options.

The UK Government is currently reviewing England’s waste policy, and is proposing to process 25% through energy from waste.

But what is energy from waste? In reality this catch-all term refers to a wide range of technologies, with a whole range of impacts on climate change. In order to better understand the impacts of these technologies, Friends of the Earth commissioned Eunomia Research and Consulting Ltd to examine the climate impacts of the different options.

In addition, in order to improve understanding of the climate impacts of different methods of dealing with residual waste (what is left after reuse, recycling and composting), we also asked Eunomia to examine this complex issue.

This summary report takes the results of the Eunomia research and puts them in context. The full report, A changing climate for energy from waste? is available at Friends of the Earth’s web site.

May 2006

resource: Incinerator correspondence to be made public

by Alex Blake, for resource:

Environment Agency (EA) concerns over the Moorwell incinerator on the Isles of Scilly will become available to the public thanks to a Freedom of Information request.

The request, submitted by Radio Scilly, will see around 400 pages of emails and letters being released. The material details correspondence between the EA and the Chief Technical Officer of the Council of the Isles of Scilly between June 2010 and earlier this year.

Councillor Steve Sims, Chairman of the General Purpose Committee on the isles, stated that the documents would be available to view in the Council’s One-Stop Shop, but that making copies would not be permitted.

It has since been reported that during the sampling periods, levels of dioxins (which the World Health Organization describes as ‘highly toxic’) at the site reached 65 times the permitted levels.

However, the Council took steps to reassure the public that there was ‘no clear risk to human health’ posed by the dioxins.

Andy Street from consultants SLR also commented: “Regarding public health, it is true that the emissions were high on occasion from this incinerator, which was first commissioned in the 1970’s. Initial assessment of the impact of emissions to air was undertaken in 2009 under the instruction of the Environment Agency, which in turn consulted with the Food Standards Agency.

“These investigations indicated that, even with monitored emissions at their highest, there was no clear risk to human health, because of the small scale of the plant and low volume of waste incinerated.”

EA officials brought in consultants SLR to consult with the council and the agency on the site, and according to the group, found that the incinerator was being overloaded and was burning too much unsorted, off-island plastic waste. However, dioxin levels have now reportedly returned to within ‘safe’ limits.

Incineration problems not the first

This is not the first time incineration plants have been in the news over environmental and health concerns. Less than one month ago, Scotgen (Dumfries) Ltd saw its permit revoked for its Dargavel incinerator after the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) declared it had failed ‘to comply with the requirements of [its] permit’.

The revocation notice, served on 23 August, cited the following permit breaches:

  • persistent non-compliance with the requirements of the permit;
  • failure to comply with an enforcement notice;
  • failure to maintain financial provision and resources to comply with the requirements of the permit;
  • failure to recover energy with a high level of efficiency.

According to Ian Conroy, Technical Support Manager in the South West for SEPA: “Since the plant come [sic] into operation we have provided support and assistance to Scotgen (Dumfries) Limited including affording them considerable time and opportunity to demonstrate that this facility can meet the Best Available Techniques, and the specific requirements of European Directives designed to protect the environment. Unfortunately despite this, they have not done so.”

The Dargavel site has suffered a litany of problems. In 18 July 2013 a fire broke out at the site, requiring 30 firefighters to bring it under control. Scotgen is also under investigation by the Health and Safety Executive following a “pipe burst” in August, which damaged nearby pipework and a roof.

Incineration could become ‘obsolete’

In relation to these latest incidents, Shlomo Dowen, National Coordinator of United Kingdom Without Incineration (UKWIN), stated his belief that incinerators would become ‘obsolete’: “I understand that many of the problems at the facility arose from changes in feedstock composition and difficulties in obtaining combustible material.

“These are issues that I expect will become more prevalent across the UK in the coming years as increases in recycling, waste minimisation, and separate collection of food waste render residual waste treatment unnecessary and show incineration to be obsolete.”

Read more about incineration and the full statement regarding the Moorwell site from the Council of the Isles of Scilly.

11 Sep 2013

IPS: Dioxin Levels Soar on Icelandic Farms (2011)

by Lowana Veal, for the Inter Press Service:

In the northwestern Icelandic town of Isafjordur, milk is causing pandemonium. A local milk marketing board recently tested one farm’s milk for the presence of harmful chemicals. Dioxin, and dioxin-like compounds, were found to be present in amounts higher than the recommended maximum levels, threatening the future of local farmers, and angering residents.

Dioxins are highly toxic compounds produced as a byproduct in some manufacturing processes, notably herbicide production and paper bleaching. They are a serious and persistent environmental pollutant.

The milk that was tested came from a farm called Efri-Engidalur, located in a valley only 1.5 kilometres from a waste-burning incinerator that was closed by the authorities last year due to consistently high levels of pollutants.

“Usually, measurements are done by the authorities, but we decided to test for dioxin because we were concerned about the incinerator,” said Einar Sigurdsson, of MS Iceland Dairies.

As a result of the findings, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (IFVA) decided to test samples of milk, meat, and hay from several farms in the surrounding area.

The findings revealed increased levels of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds in the majority of the samples. Dioxin-like compounds are polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as dioxin-like PCBs, which behave like dioxin, so are generally classified with it in terms of toxicity.